by Julie Huskey, NBCT
IRA Teacher Advisory Panel
It was the end of the school year in 2010 where I was laboring in the dreaded “pack up the room” bit…piling boxes to the ceiling, shoving items into cabinets so that I would have absolutely no idea where I put it at the beginning of school next year, and frantically ripping posters down off the walls to begin my summer vacation when I had the revelation to move out of the elementary classroom and begin a new journey.
An art position had opened and I floored my principal when she jokingly asked if I would be interested with an overly excited YES! Although, I had one catch…I refused to give up my love of literacy. Literacy has been my backbone for teaching. After teaching 14 years in elementary, serving in every office in my local reading council, doing many years including President of our Arkansas Reading Association and now serving on the International Reading Association's Teacher Advisory Panel I just couldn’t walk away from literacy.
So I made a plan to submit to my principal and school board that I wanted to begin a new art program in my school and I would title it RAW ART. Raw has so many meanings are perfect for my program but initially the acronym was designed for Reading And Writing with Art. RAW ART is now my passion in life and I can’t wait each day for all 500 of my kindergarten to sixth graders to come into my room and experience it with me.
Connection to Common Core
Sometimes in art colors just mix together to create the perfect blend and my RAW ART program followed the same blending with the incoming Common Core. The Common Core State Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. Much of the motivation behind the interdisciplinary approach to literacy drew from extensive research establishing the need for college and career ready students to be proficient in reading complex informational text independently in a variety of content areas. The creation of my program blending art and literacy is like the paint brush to the paint, you can’t have one without the other.
Using a variety of art, children’s books both fiction and nonfiction, poems, magazine articles, newspapers, and dictionaries to engage us in reading, discussions, analyzing, forming opinions, group work, comparing, and contrasting—these are but a few of the many simple ways I integrate art and literacy. There are times when the text is the basis for our art work and other times when the art is the basis for our writing. In Children’s Literature in the Reading Program: An Invitation to Read published by IRA, Cyndi Giorgis of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, discussed the importance of manipulating the power of visual literature that both children and adults are so drawn to and extending appreciation and understand of how illustrations matter in interpreting text.
Great Projects to Try
My second and third graders used the book Trucks by Patricia Hubbell and fabulous collage illustrations of Megan Halsey. Introducing the book to the students led to so many discussions with the format of the text, the caption bubbles, the story itself, and the clever illustrations the students uncovered. Next I shared with my students an old alphabet rhyming game that my mother taught me years ago where the students filled in the blanks with items that matched the letter. My name is ___ and I am very ___. I’m going to ____ with a truck load of ___. My students quickly caught on and I would hear them chanting the rhyme and making up silly words all day long in the hallways. Their objectives were to use maps, draw a truck inserting their photo, create a collage that was inspired by Halsey’s illustrations, and write their rhyme using their name on the piece.
My sixth graders designed and created these fabulous Greek columns with a self expressive sculpture resting on the pedestal. We began with research on the three main types of Greek columns. The students selected one style to create their column with and then wrote about their column as well as how the sculpture expressed them.
Whether you teach RAW ART or any other subject, integrating literacy into everything we do and teach is crucial to advancing our students above the bar. Language both oral and written are the two most important factors putting our creativity in motion every day. Let your imagination run wild and create an innovative way to add a little literacy splash to all content areas.
For those interested I have an art blog with many of my ideas, photos, downloadable power points and books all free and accessible at www.artjulz.blogspot.com or you can e-mail me at email@example.com.